Suzanna Sifter

Affiliated Departments

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Career Highlights
  • Composer and pianist for own groups
  • Former pianist for Tony Lada Quartet
  • Jazz festival adjudicator and clinician
  • Original compositions "Lines for Charlie" featured on Dino Govoni's In the Library and "Victor Blue" featured on Tony Lada's On the Edge
  • Recordings as a leader include Flowers for You, Awakening, and The Illumination
  • Performances with Dave Clark, Dino Govoni, Yoron Israel, Tony Lada, John LaPorta, and Casey Scheuerell
  • Private lessons with Charlie Banacos, Hal Crook, and Dave Holland
  • Authored and teaches Upper Structure Triad Applicatons 1 and 2, courses that study USTs as applied to tension-specific chords for jazz comping, harmonizing melodies with upper and lower structure triads, reharmonization of standard songs, and improvisation using triads
  • Publications include Berklee Jazz Keyboard Harmony: Using Upper Structure Triads (Hal Leonard/Berklee Press)
  • M.M., New England Conservatory of Music
  • B.M., Berklee College of Music
In Their Own Words

"I would like my students to learn to love the process which prepares them for the experience of creative expression."

"My teaching style is individually based on each student's particular musical needs rather than a one-size-fits-all teaching style. I listen to the student play, and assess his or her musical needs on various levels. Then we set goals at the beginning of the semester and follow through by checking in with those goals throughout the semester. It's really individualized. I think this interpersonal style, which includes talking and getting to know the person as well as the musician, can lead to greater exploration along the path of musical self-discovery."

"My main style as a teacher, composer, and performer is contemporary acoustic jazz. I specialize in teaching improvisation, comping, and lead sheet interpretation through the use of upper structure triads. I authored and teach a course entitled Upper Structure Triad Applicatons in which we study USTs as applied to jazz comping, harmonizing melodies, and improvisation. I am currently working on a book on this topic to be published through Berklee Press."

"I also teach pop and varied contemporary styles. I've taught many classical players who are working at learning jazz. It's very hard for them to make that leap if they don't feel comfortable enough to create without the written note. I help classical players by teaching the traditionally notated version of a tune written out and then making connections to the lead sheet version. I also have experience coaching vocalists to accompany themselves on piano."

"I've had a number of special needs students over the years. I feel I'm very creative in my teaching methods, looking past the disability in a person to see the ability. It is an honor to help all people develop their connection with music."